Shike – Day 285 of 306

Eisen looked at Jebu sternly. “You were right before when you said you are not a very good Zinja. Your insight is feeble. Don’t you understand that acting without concern for results means not feeling remorse afters those results have occurred? You must live as if the consequences of your every action have been perfect.”

Jebu rocked back on his heels, gasping. He felt light as a cloud. Eisen had eased a twenty-year-old pain. He bent forward and pressed his forehead against the woven grass flooring of his tent.

“I am a great fool, sensei,” he said. “Thank you for taking away the suffering.”

“It will come back,” said Eisen matter-of-factly. “The cultivation of insight can never cease.”

“I am still very naïve.”

“No, you are not. You are one of the most accomplished members of our Order. You do not realize how important you have become to us. In all the Sunrise Land you have the widest range of experience of the lands beyond the western sea.”

Jebu felt a chill as he guessed what Eisen was leading up to. “Excuse me, sensei, but you yourself have studied in China.”

Eisen brushed at a fly, taking care not to hurt it. “I spent five years in a Ch’an monastery. I travelled very little. I’m afraid it’s unavoidable, Jebu. Since Abbot Taitaro’s death you have become, of all of us, the best qualified.”

“Best qualified for what, sensei?”

“To journey for the Order, as Taitaro did.”

Jebu was appalled. “But I’m needed here.”

“Yes, your work is here until this war is over. We are telling you about the Order’s suggestions for your future to give you time to think about them. As always, the Order wants you to accept the responsibility freely.”

“Why is it necessary to send me, sensei? What am I expected to accomplish?”

“We will talk at length about this another time. To put it briefly, and I am sure unconvincingly, the circulation of ideas and knowledge is the life blood of the Order. If we are a force for life, growth and liberation it is because our view of humanity transcends the limited awareness of the people of any one nation. To make this possible, representatives of our Order must travel to the edges of the world to maintain contact among our branches.”

Jebu glanced out the opening of his tent. He could hear gulls calling, and now he could see the waters of Hakata Bay growing light, the dark shapes of Mongol ships drifting at anchor in the centre of the harbour and extending out to its mouth. They had not even begun to discuss the reason he wanted no part of Eisen’s proposal.

“I am the Order’s closest link with the Bakufu,” said Jebu. “Surely that is of more value than my wandering about in faraway lands.”

“What you do now is important,” Eisen agreed. “But what we want you to do will be even more important.”

Jebu sighed. “Sensei, I am over fifty years old. Most men do not live to this age. So, I have given a lifetime to the Order already. I have had the good fortune, in the last few years, to be united with the only woman I have ever loved. You know her. I might be killed any day now. But I want to spend the rest of my life with her, however long that may be. I beg of you, do not ask this of me.”

Jebu had expected that Eisen would dismiss with contempt the suggestion that a man might want to set aside his manifest duty for the sake of a woman. Instead the round-faced monk nodded and stared at Jebu with sympathy.

“I know her very well. Even better than I know you. I know what a magnificent woman she is. Each of you has attained deep insight, and the love of man and woman can lead them together to the most profound awareness of the Self. In the embrace of a loving couple, each is drawn out of the illusion of singleness. Yes, Jebu, I know what I am asking you to give up.”

Kagyo said, “Most of us find our loves within the Order. You have spent an exceptional part of your life in the world outside our monasteries, and it complicates things.”

“Indeed it does,” said Eisen. “She has a destiny of her own to fulfil. And you are an obstacle to her fulfilment just as she is an obstacle to yours. As with you, the circumstances of her life—the many powerful men she has known, her journey to China, her intimate knowledge of the Great Khan of the Mongols—together with her natural endowment, make her an irreplaceable person. The Bakufu could not function half as well without her. I’m afraid, though, that the liaison between her and you will gradually erode the respect she enjoys now and which she needs to be effective.”

As he listened, Jebu felt he was being torn in two. “Sensei, again I beg of you—”

Eisen held up a silencing hand. “Do not commit yourself now. Give your insight time to work on this problem.”

Jebu laughed bitterly. “Sensei, five years ago the Order helped me to see that I had to yield to her plea that I return to Kamakura. And then our love, which I thought was dead, came back to life. Now the Order tells me that I must give her up again. Does the Order think five years with her is enough for me? A whole lifetime with her would not be enough. I refuse, sensei. Tell them. I do not need time to think.”

Eisen shrugged and patted Jebu’s knee. “Only you can decide. The whole philosophy of the Order is based on that.” He rose. Kagyo following him, and walked to the opening of the tent.

“I will never part with her.”

“It will rain today. The clouds are already covering the moon. Good morning to you, Jebu-san.”

After they were gone, Jebu went out of his tent and sat on a hilltop watching a misty day dawn over the harbour. Samurai paced restlessly along the top of the curving wall that stretched along the beach. Jebu asked himself, where will they attack today? With a grunt of anger he dismissed Eisen’s message from the Order. If they think I will give her up after all this time, they are fools, he told himself. But they were not fools, he knew, thinking sadly of the empty temples all over the Sunrise Land. They were the wisest and the most dedicated people he had ever known. They were his people. Out of habit he reached inside his robe and took out the Jewel of Life and Death. Sadly, he put it away again. It meant no more now to him than a piece of glass. The Zinja gone. The Jewel gone. Yukio gone. Taitaro gone. Now they wanted to take Taniko. They were systematically stripping away anyone or anything that he cared deeply about. But a Zinja was not supposed to have attachments. He had started out in life knowing that. How had he acquired so many?

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)